View Full Version : Crash inquiry findings

05-Feb-15, 13:50
Fatal accident unavoidable says sheriff

A SHERIFF has concluded that the death of a holiday cyclist who died after a car collided with her near in Caithness, almost three-and-a-half years ago, was unavoidable.
Sheriff Andrew Berry said that there was no medical or related reason that would have caused concern about the driver of the car 93-year-old Alice Ross's ability to drive.
In his findings, following a fatal accident inquiry he conducted at Wick, last August, he also ruled out a suggestion made at the fatal accident inquiry for a blanket testing of elderly drivers, as "unrealistic".
The woman who died, 30-year-old Elaine Dunne, was holidaying in the north of Scotland with her husband Christopher. They were travelling south from John O' Groats, on September 21, 2011, and had stopped on their way south, at a croft cottage at Auckengill to put on rain proof clothing.
Mrs Ross, who was travelling north from her home in the village of Lybster, to John O' Groats to visit a relative, suddenly veered across the A99 and ploughed into the Leicester couple. Mrs Dunne died as a result of mutliple injuries and Mr Dunne defied medical opinion that he would walk again.
Sheriff Berry, who conducted the four-day inquiry into the tragedy said that "a blackout of some kind" suffered by retired shopkeeper Mrs Ross immediately prior to the accident, was "the most likely" cause.
The sheriff said that a central issue in the inquiry was Mrs Ross's health and he continued: "She generally enjoyed good health throughout her life. It can readily be said that, with limited exceptions, there existed no medical or related reason that would have caused anyone concern, however remote as to her ability to drive."
The limited exceptions were that Mrs Ross, according to her medical notes had reported in 1955 and 1981, "dizzyiness" and "consciousness disturbance", respectively.
The sheriff commented: "The detail offered, is restricted to basically those words from which no additional medical opinion was possible, at the inquiry. There is no immediate or other concern over the ensuing 30 years in relation to such matters."
After the accident, Mrs Ross suffered similar turns, similar to one she experience a month before it but medical evidence presented to the inquiry didn't result in any categorical conclusion as to what might have been wrong with her. She surrendered her driving licence after the accident and apologised for the collision.
Sheriff Berry stated: "There were, accordingly, no red flags or warning lights in relation to the health of Mrs Ross as at the date of the accident which might have occasioned anyone to advise or insist in so far as anyone could, that she seek medical advice."
The sheriff said he did not accept the submission by fiscal Alasdair Macdonald that Mrs Ross ought, as a reasonable precaution to have sought and acted upon medical advice following upon the funny at her cousin's home. The occurence was a passing one in the long life of "a robustly healthy lady". It goes without saying that, as no doctor was consulted after the turn, there can be no question as to whether Mrs Ross ought to have been advised not to drive and or referred for other examination. It is also far from clear that, had she sought advice, from her GP, she would have been advised not to drive. That of course is hypothetical in any event."
Sheriff Berry said that the real issue he had to consider, was whether, based on age alone, a person aged 93 should have been subject to closer scrutiny by medical advisors and the DVLA (represented at the inquiry); namely that the licensing of elderly drivers in the UK should be subject to a mandatory medical testing regime as "a reasonable precaution" which might have avoided the Caithness fatal accident.
There was no defect in the existing licensing system which might have contributed to the death of Elaine Dunne.
Sheriff Berry continued: "There is no precaution in the circumstances of this matter which might have avoided the death or similar future accidents and accordingly no recommendation I can make. These issues are much to wide for what is an examination into the facts and circumstances of a single occurence, the cause of which cannot be stated with any degree of certainty. There is nothing in the facts of this matter what would allow me to conclude that if Mrs Ross had been required, in terms of being over the age of 80, to renew her licence to drive every two years, as opposed to every three years, that this would have prevented the accident." He described the potential administrative burden on GPs, if asked to regularly certify fitness to drive in relation to a growing elderly population and submitted that a blanket testing of drivers, nationally, would be administratively "unrealistic".
The sheriff added:" For the avoidance of any doubt, the facts and circumstances of this tragedy bear no comparison whatever, with a situation such as where an individual might, having suffered repeated ill health, failed, in defiance of common sense, to seek medical advice or failed, again, in defiance of common sense to desist from driving, pending medical advice, or having sought such advice, failed to comply with same by continuing to drive against that advice"
After the inquiry Mr Dunne who came north for it, expressed the hope that the inquiry would recommend testing of elderly drivers as a way of avoiding similar tragedies.